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Reforms Required to Engage Boys

Here are 12 of the 52 recommendations from Australian researcher Ian Lillico:

As writing is a major area of deficiency for boys it is important that boys should communicate before writing something - this should be done at school or at home using a variety of techniques and models. When boys talk through things before writing their writing fluency and volume is dramatically increased.

All writing for boys up to the end of their compulsory school years should be done within teacher-prepared templates or scaffolds. Teachers should hand out the requisite number of pages required for the boys to fill in with headings and the number of lines required for each section. Eventually boys will intrinsically expand their writing as they enter the post-compulsory schooling years.

Adolescent and teen boys and girls wear a mask to protect themselves from bullying and to hide behind rather than show their real selves. We must train teachers and parents not to communicate with these masks, but to talk only with the real boys behind these masks. Boys are very vulnerable and protect themselves from put downs with these cool masks but must be taught to take them off regularly if they are to lead a normal life and come to terms with their feelings. Drama is a useful subject where boys can take their mask off in a safe environment or put on another mask and act out roles they would otherwise not play.

When boys are given responsibility they grow. If, later, that responsibility is taken away again, we will face boys who disengage and become increasingly hostile and unmanageable. Schools must be particularly aware of this as boys progress annually through classes - that the degree of responsibility gradually increases from year to year.

Boys need empowerment in schools. When boys have a say in what is going on around them they engage. If they have no say they disengage as it is someone else’s rules - not theirs. They should play a part in deciding school, classroom and home rules. Student councils need to have widened powers and become the spokespeople for students.

Boys need to reconnect with nature. It is important for boys to do the type of activities men were designed for - hunting, fishing, crabbing, camping, etc. as these give boys confidence that they can do something. It teaches them that they can provide for the table - fish, game, etc and this brings out the hunter/gatherer instinct in boys. At every opportunity they must be challenged by nature and come to understand the forces of nature and where they fit in the universe.

At every opportunity both at home and at school, boys should be given opportunities to reflect. They should reflect on masculinity and on life in general. Posters in classrooms, icons around the school, rituals, discussion groups and debates are some strategies that should be employed.

Parents and teachers should never shame boys. The shaming language “How could you!” should change to “What has happened?” so as not to initiate the shame response. Once the shame response is activated, boys clam up and disengage from conversation with a corresponding deterioration of the relationship between them and the adult concerned.

Adults need to be optimistic about the future so that boys will be also. Our media is very negative and doom and gloom is in our papers and lounge room every day of the week. Adults must balance the negativity with hope and optimism as many boys fear the future, are anxious about their future lives as men and often don’t want to grow up.

Boys must be given the keys to communicate and write about their feelings and emotions. They will learn to communicate feelings when the important adults in their lives do the same - especially males (Fathers and Teachers). Boys basically write basically to communicate information and fact. They must learn to be more expansive in their writing and attempt to communicate feelings as girls tend to do in their writing.

Teachers must explicitly explain the relevance of topics being taught to boys and attempt to integrate new concepts into existing ones. If (after a great deal of deliberation) no relevance can be found - DON’T teach that topic.

When assignments or questions seem to open ended and reflective - boys often put off completing the work until the last minute as the task seems too daunting for them as they prefer shorter, structured, more closed tasks. It is important for teachers to give boys work that first enables them to get success and then leads them onto more challenging, open-ended tasks within the same assignment. Once they achieve success at easier, more closed questions at the beginning of the assignment, they are more likely to continue with it.

Posted by Michael L Umphrey on 03/29 at 09:51 PM






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